Meet Susanna Campbell
The Altor community is built by partner companies and the people we collaborate with daily, let's meet one of them.
Susanna, or Sanna as she likes to be called, has quite a unique position in the business community. “Raised” at McKinsey, she then moved to the listed investment firm Ratos where she eventually became CEO. Post Ratos, Sanna has made herself known as an investor, Board member but also sounding board to many entrepreneurs and exciting ventures. Currently she holds Board positions in two of Altor’s investments: H2 Green Steel and as Chair in Network of Design. Among her other engagements, she is member of the Board of Northvolt and Kinnevik as well as ventures such as Lace Laboratory and Estrid.
What makes Altor special – if you would compare us to other investment firms?
Let me start by saying what type of themes I look for when I engage myself in companies these days: The first is green innovations, I am prepared to work hard for that. Secondly, I look for strong entrepreneurs who think outside the box and aim high, and there I feel I have a lot to contribute as a sounding board. Thirdly, I have come to invest a lot in female entrepreneurs and female leadership. These three themes are a strong part of Altor as well. I love that.
“The green investment space has never been more exciting or more important than now. I am thrilled to be able to work with some of Sweden’s, and therefore the world’s, most important green ventures.”
This focus on female leadership, can you elaborate on what makes it different?
From the beginning, it wasn’t a conscious strategy for me, but when I look at the companies I’m involved in today, there are a lot of female founders and female CEOs. If the big private equity funds are at 80/20 in the distribution of male/female founders in their investments, I am probably 80/20 the other way. The bottom line for me is that they are good investments, as there tends to be less competition than companies founded by men. There are also many female entrepreneurs who seek me out because they would like to have women as investors. Several of the companies make products aimed at women, so it might be easier for me to understand the business.
Where is the green investment universe going?
When you said the word ‘impact’ a few years ago, people thought we were going to do charity work. But now, large amounts of capital are flowing in.
When Northvolt’s CEO Peter Carlsson returned to Sweden after his Tesla career he contacted me – it was probably the easiest pitch he’s ever made. I was sold in three seconds, the business opportunity was so clear. But there were many who questioned it, so the first 2.5 years were no walk in the park.
The enormous skepticism we encountered in Northvolt is much milder now, and the learnings from that investment are something we take with us going forward. The Nortvolt investment has also paved the way for other investments in the green transition sector, and Sweden has taken an incredibly strong position globally as an impact business universe. Now with H2 Green Steel, which is an incredibly exciting project, nothing is new for us after Northvolt.
What makes companies like Northvolt and H2GS different?
First of all, some things are the same across all successful companies: you need to have great people onboard. And that is something that both Northvolt and H2 Green Steel have been able to attract. There are many impact projects, but when you look at these two projects, they are really redefining entire industries. They are mega-ventures where approval processes and efficient construction of large factory sites are essential. Naturally, this requires a lot of determination and grit – which both organizations have proven that they have. You can always be a sceptic, but I want to be one of those who make things happen and help remove carbon dioxide emissions from industry.
You have green on the one hand and consumer brands on the other, is there an interlink between the two?
Climate or Green Transition is not an option anymore. Not for any company. To think and develop services and products responsibly is part of the core of any successful company going forward. Take members of the NOD-family, like the wooden toy producer Kid’s Concept or the outdoor furniture company Grythyttan – these are not wear and tear products, they are passed on to new generations. You need to think responsibly as an entrepreneur and I am proud to have many of those around me in my network.
Finally, you surround yourself with entrepreneurs. Are they tough cookies to work with?
Haha, no, not tough cookies. They have big visions, but great people – be it entrepreneurs or whomever – listen to other people. To customers, employees or advisors. What I have found fascinating in a company like NOD is that we have a large number of people who founded design companies in Scandinavia. They have handed them down to a new generation with the mission to stay true to their heritage. And naturally there is a risk that they wouldn’t have opened to new influences, but through NOD they have entered into a network where cross pollination is part of the DNA. We will never take away the culture or heritage of each of these brands, but they are given a world of experts at their disposal.
Published: Sep 04 2022